Yesterday, voters in our deeply polarized country sent a decidedly mixed political message. As of this writing, control of both the US House and Senate remains uncertain.
I am now getting ready to join leaders and activists from around the world at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and that is helping me maintain perspective on the election results. Encouragingly, we saw an unprecedented level of civic engagement all across our country, especially in a midterm election. The Biden Administration is still committed to the US Paris Agreement promises. Our representatives at COP care deeply about averting climate disaster. Our fight for a livable future is global and will continue whatever the makeup of the US Congress.
At UCS, we’re already taking action and we’re planning to make progress no matter who’s in office. We have decades of experience working with (and around) climate-hostile administrations and legislatures to draw upon as we work to protect what truly matters: our health and safety, and that of future generations. Over our half-century as an organization, we’ve learned a lot about how to make change in even the most difficult political environments.
Here’s a quick road map to the work we’re undertaking in the months ahead—none of which depends on federal legislative action.
First, we’re gearing up to fend off anticipated harmful provisions at the federal level that attack science and the many gains we’ve made on climate and environmental justice.
Thankfully, last summer’s passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has given us an enormous opportunity to help spur critical clean energy investments and boost clean transportation. Now, along with our environmental justice partner organizations, we’re working carefully and thoughtfully to make sure its benefits are delivered equitably across the country.
Today, nearly 30 states and municipalities across the country have brought lawsuits against fossil fuel companies, with the vast majority of these citing UCS research in their complaints. Through our Science Hub for Climate Litigation, we’re building a powerful roster of top scientific experts, legal scholars, and practitioners who can hold these companies to account in court for their ongoing campaigns of deception to block climate action and the massive damages that have resulted.
Transportation accounts for 27 percent of US heat-trapping emissions—the country’s largest source. UCS is combining analytics, outreach, and direct advocacy with policymakers to advance a suite of policies to speed the adoption of electric cars, trucks, and buses. In California, for example, we successfully pushed for new standards requiring all new passenger cars to be zero-emissions by 2035, and we are working toward requirements for large truck fleets to include zero-emissions trucks. Following California’s lead, both rules are already being considered or adopted in many other states as well. In addition, we’ll be pushing EPA to set strong federal clean car and truck standards to drive electrification and protect public health.
False narratives promoted by the fossil fuel industry and its allied policymakers, pundits, and social media influencers are undermining our democracy and our public health. We’re working to grow our Science Network and mobilize scientists and youth activists to fight disinformation, working with partners to help people recognize it when they see it, and to push back against these falsehoods and the social media networks that enable them.
Supported by sophisticated modeling, UCS is providing a vision and specific steps toward an updated electricity grid that relies primarily on renewable resources. Our rigorous research is showing how carbon-free technologies can serve our needs reliably. We’re bringing that research to states and public utility commissions, making the case for prioritizing transmission investments to support more renewable energy on the grid.
Regardless of the final election outcome, we see potential to achieve dramatic changes in the upcoming US Farm Bill. We’ve built a coalition of 170 organizations that support taking US agriculture in a different direction, building a food system that’s more sustainable, just, and climate-resilient. Working together, we’ll push for provisions in the bill that will benefit the environment, farmers, and consumers. And as an example of a company that embodies what’s gone wrong with US agriculture, UCS has been targeting Tyson Foods, using analyses, blog and multimedia content, and advertising, to highlight Tyson’s outsize power in our food system—its role in price fixing, pollution, and failing to protect its employees from human rights abuses.
We’re working at every level to build a safer world and reduce the likelihood of nuclear war, from international calls for more sensible policies to our Back from the Brink initiative, in which cities and towns renounce nuclear weapons. We’re empaneling experts to recommend safer and more affordable alternatives to current US plans to update our nuclear weapons arsenal. And we’re pursuing justice, including federal compensation, for communities affected by nuclear weapons testing, development, and production.
UCS is well positioned in our Western States office to take advantage of political and popular support for sustainable solutions to the climate impacts now facing California, Oregon, and Washington—namely severe drought and dangerous wildfires. We’re launching a water and wildfire initiative to match community needs with technical expertise on groundwater management, Western States-specific climate impacts, and agriculture.
For more than 50 years, the Union of Concerned Scientists has fought hard for science-based policies such as these that protect our health, safety, and environment. This is what we do best. And we will continue to do it—and to make powerful progress—with you standing and fighting with us.
In this perilous time when farsighted action is so clearly needed, our mission and values remain clear and unwavering: we champion evidence-based solutions that can help improve people’s lives. We’re building our power to not only make our country safer, but also repair our democracy and build a more just, equitable, and healthy society. Whatever the final outcome in the US House and Senate, with your help, we know we can succeed.
Posted in: Climate Change, Science and Democracy
Tags: climate-change, COP27, election, election night
About the author
Ms. Kreilick has three decades of experience with social movements, science policy, and working to combat climate change. Before leading UCS, Ms. Kreilick served on the executive team of the Open Society Foundations.
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